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Pain in the Neck: 7 Ways to Improve Posture and Relieve Neck Pain

By Edited Sep 20, 2016 2 1
Forward Head

Do you sit at a computer to do all of your work?  Are you obsessed with using your phone all hours of the day?  Do you travel a lot?  Do you sleep in weird positions at night?  Is your primary focus at the gym to build big pecs, shoulders, and biceps?  

If this is you, it's highly likely that by the end of the day you either have a furious headache or the base of your neck feels like it's going to explode because of all the tension that has been generated from...you guessed it...terrible posture.  

It's crazy to think about, but almost everything we do in our day to day is in a forward, or anterior direction.  We drive with our hands and shoulders forward in relation to the rest of our body.  We pick things up in an anterior position.  We eat our food...brush our teeth...type on our computers...give hugs...shake hands...send a text...throw a football...carry boxes...and push a grocery cart all in a forward, anterior direction!  No wonder so many of us have neck pain and splitting headaches.  

You see, the head is designed to sit nicely atop our bodies, ears inline with the middle of our shoulders.  Over time we can start developing nasty little habits that progressively bring our head and shoulders forward, placing lots of strain on the cervical spine.  The result: increased tonicity and tension placed on the muscles trying to keep your head upright, and anatomically dangerous positions that can lead to serious cervical and thoracic problems down the road...some even requiring surgery.  

It is very important that you start now to reverse the damage that you have done to yourself, and place a high premium on correcting your posture so that you can hopefully avoid major issues down the road.  

Start by taking a quick assessment of your posture.  Simply find a wall and place your heels, butt, and shoulders along the wall.  Make sure they remain touching, and then move your head horizontally back and try to touch the wall with the back of your head.  If you have to look up to touch the back of the wall, you are doing it incorrectly.  Hopefully you will be able to touch the wall with all landmarks.  If you cannot, this is a sure fire indication that you need to do some exercising...now!

Here are 7 things that I put together for you in the clinic to help you with your postural strength, control, and awareness:

 1. Chin tucks: Begin by placing feet, butt, and shoulders along the wall just like you did with the postural assessment.  Move your head back horizontally so that you make a double chin and try to touch the back of the wall with your head.  You should feel it stretching those really tight muscles at the base of your skull, called the suboccipitals.  

Reps: 10

Sets: 3

Frequency: Many times a day.  You don't need to have a wall to do this exercise, although it is ideal.  Do it sitting at your desk, laying on a pillow, riding in the car.  Make a habit out of it.  

 

 

Start

Chin Tuck_Start

Finish

Chin Tuck_Finish

2. Prone Shoulder Extension: Lay on your stomach and place a rolled up towel at your forehead.  Do a chin tuck (mentioned above) by creating a double chin.  Keep arms straight down by your side, then raise both arms, squeezing your shoulder blades together.  Hold this position for 20 seconds, then relax.  

As you progress with your ability to maintain this position, increase your time to 30 sec, 45 sec, etc.  

Reps: 5

Sets: 1-2

Frequency: 1-2 times per day

Start

Prone Ext_Start

Finish

Prone Ext_Finish

3. Prone Horizontal Abduction: Lay on your stomach and place a rolled up towel at your forehead.  Do a chin tuck (mentioned above) by creating a double chin.  Start with arms out at 90 degrees, point your thumbs up to the ceiling and raise both arms, squeezing your shoulder blades together.  Hold this position for 20 seconds, then relax.  

As you progress with your ability to maintain this position, increase your time to 30 sec, 45 sec, etc.  

Reps: 5

Sets: 1-2

Frequency: 1-2 times per day

Start

Prone Horizontal Abd_Start

Finish

Prone Horizontal Abd_Finish

4. Upper Trap Stretch: Sit in a chair and grip the bottom of the chair with your right hand (keeping your right shoulder depressed).  Look straight ahead.  With your left hand, reach across the top your head and gently pull your head down to the left so that your left ear goes toward your left shoulder.  Hold this stretch for 10 seconds.  Stretch the other trap by doing the opposite of the above.  

Reps: 10 

Sets: 1-2

Frequency: 1-2 times per day

Start

Upper Trap_Start

Finish

Upper Trap_Finish

5. Levator Scapula Stretch: Sit in a chair and grip the bottom of the chair with your right hand (keeping your right shoulder depressed).  Look straight ahead.  With your left hand, reach across the top your head and gently pull your head down toward your left hip.  Hold this stretch for 10 seconds.  Stretch the other levator scapula by doing the opposite of the above.  

Reps: 10 

Sets: 1-2

Frequency: 1-2 times per day

Start

Levator_Start

Finish

Levator_Finish

6. Theraband Rowing: Grip a theraband in both hands at a height just below chest level.  Keep elbows close to your sides and pull the band toward you, squeezing your shoulder blades together.  Try to avoid shrugging your shoulders up when you pull back, because you do not want to activate your upper trap muscles when you do this exercise.  Row down and back, not up and back.  

Reps: 10

Sets: 3

Frequency: 1-2 times per day

 

Start

Row_Start

Finish

Row_Finish

7. Pec Stretch: Carefully place the middle of your back on a long foam roller, so that your butt and head are able to rest on it.  Let your arms fall back onto the surface so that you feel a good stretch in your chest (anterior compartment).  You can begin with your hands straight out in a "T" formation, then progress to a "Y" formation to increase the stretch.  Hold each position for 30 seconds.  

Reps: 5

Sets: 1-2

Frequency: 1-2 times per day

** If you do not have a foam roller, you can always do this stretch standing up in a door frame.  Place both hands higher than head level on a door frame.  Step through with your right foot so that you feel a stretch in your chest.  Do this 10 times with 10 second holds and repeat with the left foot stepping forward.  

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Begin

Pec Stretch_1

Progression

Pec Stretch_2

I really hope these exercises help you if you are struggling with neck pain or bad posture.  Just by making a few adjustments to your life, you can notice a big difference in how you feel.  Please leave a comment below if you have any questions and I will be glad to answer them!

Thanks!

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Comments

Jul 4, 2014 8:23pm
asereht1970
Thank you for sharing this wonderful information.
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